Lilly Library of Indiana University, Bloomington

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Client: Indiana University, Bloomington

Location: Bloomington, IN, United States

Completion date: 2021

Artwork budget: $400,000

Project Team

Artist

Ralph Gilbert

Ralph Gilbert Studio, LLC

Client

Indiana University Lilly Library

Indiana University and Lilly Endowment

Overview

The Lilly Library is one of the world’s great special collections libraries, housing millions of rare books and literary artifacts. As part of the renovation of the Library, the Lilly Endowment (Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals) funded this mural project for a total of $500,000.00. These murals, almost 100 feet in length by 9 feet in height, reflect the library’s rich resources in world literature, history, the sciences, and the arts. This commission was conducted as an international competition.

Goals

This work had to tell the story of the holdings vividly, while not overwhelming a space that hosts students, scholars, and intellectually curious visitors that spend thousands of hours each year in the Reading Room. Issues of color, scale and line of sight were important, but the greatest challenge was to integrate the vast array of disciplines and cultures successfully in the murals.

Process

These works were completed in the studio on canvas over a one-year period. Once completed, they were dismounted, rolled, and shipped to the site. They were adhered to the walls using an history marouflage technique, over a period of 4 days.

Additional Information

These murals are directly next door to the University’s concert hall, that houses a vast and historic cycle of murals by Thomas Hart Benton, America’s most famous muralist. My challenge was to create works that would stand up to comparison to his—so there was a high standard to live up to.